Thursday, October 7, 2010

“How Could Anyone Desecrate My Lord?”

Our county is famous for some odd things lately. Last year, it was “Balloon Boy”. This year, it is upheaval over a controversial work of art.

The Loveland Museum/Gallery, which I have frequented in the past, made national news last month when they opened the display of a lithograph featuring Jesus Christ performing a homosexual sex act. Naturally, there was a great deal of uproar over the display, from both sides of the issue. City council members demanded its removal, while others called for tolerance of differing views. A lot of print ink was used to discuss the issue – which is precisely what the “artist” was hoping for.

Yesterday, a 56-year old woman from Montana entered the gallery with a crowbar. When the area around the work was clear she removed the crowbar, broke the Plexiglas surrounding it, and then tore up the lithograph. Afterward, she waited calmly for the police to arrive. While ripping up the artwork, she was heard to say, “How could anyone desecrate my Lord?” She is currently under arrest, facing charges of criminal mischief.

So – two questions. First, should Christians feel compelled to argue against artwork and Christian desecrations of this nature? And, second, should our argument turn to acts of vandalism when we are offended as deeply as some of us were over the display in Loveland?

Our society continually talks of tolerance. Often, the standard is inequitable. While this art depicting Jesus Christ was allowed to stand, there have been instances in our country where similar characterizations of Allah are removed, because they are deeply offensive to other religions. That may not seem fair – but I think I know why. While we are not typically portrayed as such, Christians tend to be more tolerant of religious desecration than the people of some other religions, such as Islam. Of course, there are extreme examples – in both directions - where this has not been true. But let me point this out – only last month, President Barack Obama made a public statement against a Florida minister who planned to burn the Koran on his church property. I heard no such plea from our president over the Loveland art exhibit and its visual portrayal of our Lord. Why not? Christians – by now, we should expect this inequality of response. Christianity has always been the underdog in arguments such as this. It’s okay, though – truth is on our side.

Should we argue? Should we commit acts of “vandalism”? Jesus himself provides a whole spectrum of answers. When the crowd was demanding the stoning of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he pretended not to hear them, and finally gave a gentle answer – “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Yet when he caught moneychangers conducting business in the temple, he overturned their tables, obstructed people from carrying merchandise into the temple, and drove out the moneychangers (Mark 11:15-19). If he had done that in my county this week, Jesus would have gone to jail, just as the lady from Montana did.

So what is right? And what goes too far? How far should I defend my faith? Should I “tolerate” the despicable depiction of my Lord committing a sin? I’m thinking about it. What do you think?